Political fallout: COVID and the working class

We've written recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic will hit poorer countries particularly hard. But the burden of the virus' spread also falls more heavily on working class people even in wealthy countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. This is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor that had already upended the political establishment in countries around the world even before anyone had heard of a "novel coronavirus."


The working class is more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and less likely to get medical care.

  • In both rich countries and poor, working class people often live in densely populated cities where infectious disease can spread more quickly and easily.
  • The types of jobs they hold leave them less able to work from home. If they don't work, they don't get paid. In that case, they can't pay bills and feed their families.
  • If they do work, as many are still trying to do, they're more likely to be exposed to COVID-19, both on the way to work and at the job site itself, than people who can work from home.
  • Those with the least income, particularly in the United States, are less able to afford medical care, leaving many COVID-19 cases untreated. Lack of treatment helps spread the disease to the people they have contact with.
  • An eventual vaccine may be too expensive, at least at first, for the poorest people to afford.

The working class will take longest to recover from COVID's economic fallout.

  • Poorer people so ill they must be treated may later find themselves burdened with heavy medical debt.
  • Lost jobs that employ working class people will be slower to return, because people generally will remain reluctant to enter the markets, factories, public transport, restaurants and other public places where they work — possibly for many months.
  • In the US, lost jobs mean lost health care for entire families.
  • Combine heavy debt with lost jobs, and many working-class people will have little access to cash or credit for years to come.

The Political Impact: The anti-establishment politics created by inequality in recent years will intensify. Over the past five years, public anger at traditional political elites has upended politics in Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Ukraine, Ireland, and other countries.

That anger is driven in part by suspicion that political establishments in these countries aren't willing and/or able to meet the needs of those who've benefited the least from globalization and technological change over the past generation.

For all the reasons detailed above, the ongoing global pandemic is likely to stoke that anger even further.

And as we've seen over the past several years, the political consequences can be profound and impossible to predict.

The goal of Eni's High Performance Computing is to perfect and industrialize low carbon energy technologies developed in collaboration with research centers. Eni's efforts are helping to generate energy from waves and guarantee access to energy in remote areas thanks to light-weight and flexible organic photovoltaic panels

Watch Eni's new docuseries on HPC5

DRC's new Ebola wave: On the verge of eradicating an Ebola outbreak in the country's east which began back in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now identified a fresh wave of cases in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The disease, which has a fatality rate of 25 – 90 percent depending on the outbreak's character, has already killed five people in recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a grim warning that a surge of new cases could occur there in the coming months. (Ebola has an incubation period of about 21 days.) This comes as the central African country of 89 million also grapples with COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, which has killed 6,779 people there since 2019. In recent weeks, officials from the World Health Organization predicted that the DRC's deadly Ebola crisis, which has killed 2,275 people since 2018, would soon be completely vanquished.

More Show less

1.6 billion: Uganda's president said pandemic-related travel bans could cost his country $1.6 billion in tourism revenues this year. At the same time, with many Ugandan emigrants out of work in other countries hit hard by coronavirus, Uganda risks losing much of the $1.3 billion that they send home every year in remittances.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

First of all, from the global perspective, taking what we have here in New York City, obviously the biggest problem is America's leadership, America's ability to lead by example, which has been eroding now really for, you know, certainly a decade plus, but much more quickly now.

More Show less

For almost a week now, protests have surged across American cities in response to the videotaped police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man detained for allegedly using a counterfeit bill to buy cigarettes.

Alongside largely peaceful demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racial injustice, there have been instances of looting, arson, and aggressive police violence. Several journalists have been arrested.

More Show less